Once upon a time those associated with the ballet and opera deemed their escapist endeavours as ‘high art’; something to be enjoyed only by those of royalty, power or wealth. Their noses turn against ‘those’ who indulged in ‘low art’; entertainment for the masses and people of low income. But like French director Eric Rohmer once stated: “high art reposes on popular art, without one there cannot be another.” Along with the likes of 2CELLOS, Clean Bandit have begun this experimental fusion to demonstrate Rohmer had a point. And you can’t say anything to a group with a Grammy. Try it.
As the strobe lights moderated throughout Manchester’s Apollo Theatre and the chagrin tones of the piano entered, you could be forgiven for thinking you were about to watch an intense Bond thriller; Craig not Moore. ‘News Eyes’ welcomed the ensemble to the stage; where risen platforms seated drums, organs and the group’s incredibly beguiling rapper – dressed darkly to represent the devil within the Bandit against the angelic appearance of multi-instrumentalist Grace Chatto and front-woman Elisabeth Troy. The blinking illuminations moulded with the wild tonal coat of the bass as the beats grew.
The idiosyncratic attraction of the Cambridge born outfit is their absolute tenacity to shift limitations that are conventionally placed within the contemporary electro-pop model. Attaching the novel concept of damning, sequenced based orchestration and exchanging it for effervescent strings only heightens the vivacity of a live Clean Bandit experience. Under the customary restrictions placed upon the genre, ‘Stronger’ – centred upon starless bass murmurs that opposed the buoyancy of Milan Amin-Smith’s imposing violin meanders, the track intensifies under the searing lights being pumped out across the arena – could have easily strayed into the barren synthesized territory that Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ sits.
This marriage is no gimmick. For all the unifying crowd reactions ‘Extraordinary’ exuded – crisply voiced throughout by Troy, a vocalist neatly nestled between a crumbling Christine McVie and Adele, and containing pulsating bouts of more percussive electrobeats and hand-waving audience participation – there were instantaneous hits of resourceful composition within pieces like ‘Mozart’s House’ – after escaping the late nineties house contortion, Amin-Smith stood wriggling to conjure a stately, meandering string pattern that was assisted by Chatto’s skinny cello to create a Utopian score for an idyllic serenade – that affirmed Clean Bandit’s status as true revolutionaries of du jour pop.
Chatto was fascinating. Cloaked in a linen hooded dress, her reluctant verve whilst performing would rudely be shelved as she would drop, rise and bounce before smashing venomously upon the sequencers in front of her. Her allure was bewitching.
‘Birch’ counterpoised the jaunty precedent Clean Bandit had posed as the soft ambience released by Troy smoothed the mood; a mood that lasted only moments before another anticipated burst of ‘Dust Clears’ – this time fronted by beat dictator Jack Patterson whose tone and forthcoming loop carnage would leave Calvin Harris reeling in jealousy.
After the auditorium slowly stopped quivering as ‘Show Me Love’ – a rendition of the infectious garage anthem that notably has influenced all musicians from all accompanying backgrounds – Glynn stepped forward. Although her inclusion on Bandit’s latest hit ‘Real Love’, it was this track the room was waiting for. With Glynne’s vocals rapidly becoming the most recognisable in Britain, she joined on ‘Rather Be’. Cue disorder. ‘Rather Be’ is a track that typifies what the Clean Bandit brand is all about. Jerking string compositions at large with the scale upon which they explore, thrumming undercurrents of bone-shattering electronics and melodies so summer coated, it felt like 2014’s season of sun never really left. And considering the tropical excitement brewing within ‘Real Love’, we should expect more this coming summer from our favourite alternative pop ensemble.
Words by Clive K Hammond